New Northwest Mileage Enhancement May Be Short-Lived

Yesterday's announcement from Northwest was one of the very few recent glimmers of good news for frequent flyer program members who have been deluged by fees and award price increases. Ironically, and unfortunately for consumers, the enhancements are being made to a program that will be mostly dismantled when the Delta-Northwest merger takes effect.

The changes concern Northwest's PerkChoice feature, which permits WorldPerks members to use miles for one leg of a round-trip flight and pay cash for the other leg. First, when booking on Northwest's website, the PerkChoice price in both cash and miles is now displayed for the requested award itinerary, making the options easy to evaluate and to book. Other changes relate to the paid portion of a PerkChoice round-trip: The cash leg earns miles; it can be upgraded using miles; and it's eligible for elite upgrades. The changes fully integrate the PerkChoice option into the booking process. And they treat the paid portion of the trip as a revenue transaction, as it should be.

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None of these changes is a game-changer. They are incremental changes—positive changes—to a feature that adds real value to WorldPerks. But it's heartening to find an airline devoting resources to program enhancements, instead of focusing on new ways to squeeze every last penny from travelers.

Note to Delta: PerkChoice is a great program feature, made even better with these latest tweaks. It should be maintained as part of the post-merger SkyMiles program.

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